This week’s notebook is going to be a progress report on my efforts to finish a history of La Farge and put it into some type of book for all to enjoy. When I began writing these local history notebooks back in May of 2007, I stated then that the purpose of these bi-monthly columns would be to tell some of the interesting stories that I came across doing research on the history of La Farge project. I will soon be approaching three years in the process of keeping the readers of the La Farge Episcope updated on that project. Along the way we have shared stories about the village and some of the interesting events that have transpired over the years. We have seen how a La Farge boy went away to Hollywood and won an Oscar. Another local lad became nationally famous for his ability to float. We have taken walks together down La Farge’s Main Street from the past. We have discussed the big snowstorms, the good basketball and baseball teams, businesses like Nuzums that have lasted a century and others that have been in the village for twenty years like Organic Valley. We shared in the coming and going of the railroad to La Farge, the village’s fight over saloons licenses, the village’s 4th of July celebrations over the years, and the development of the school system.
During the entire time that I have been writing these notebooks, I have continued to research on the history of the village. Former LHS classmate and history-buddy Gary Hagen tipped me off early on that all of the copies of the La Farge newspapers were on microfilm at the Viola Public Library. For the past two years I have generally spent two mornings a week there scanning the old copies of the La Farge Enterprise. I have been to Madison on several occasions to go over information at the Wisconsin State Historical Society. I have spent many hours at the Vernon County Museum in Viroqua and many more hours at the Lawton Library here in La Farge. I love to do this research. Internet sites also have been useful in my search.
Other history-buddies have guided me in the search. Martha Olson in East Troy started me on the path to information on my own family’s past that helped immensely and still keeps in contact on a regular basis. Dawn Dosch-Betters from Florida and Jim Tilley from California had information for me, then later came to visit me to learn more history of when their family was here in La Farge. Donny Burnard has sent historic photos of La Farge on several occasions. Dozens of others have sent photos and other helpful bits of information along the way these last few years. These contacts have been very helpful and greatly appreciated.
Maxine Shird leads a cadre of local folks who keep me updated and walking along the correct path on this search. I have a dozen people here in La Farge that I can and do contact when I’m looking for answers to a poser from the past. Lonnie, Gail, and Matt at the Episcope office have served as a repository for information and photos on my quest. You need support like this for such an endeavor.
So, let’s start with the good news. I have a title for the book. It is:
The Story of A Kickapoo River Town
An Unfinished History
By Brad Steinmetz
Pretty catchy title, huh? Which parts of the title don’t you like, the “Unfinished History” line? Well, I haven’t finished it yet, so that line really holds true. When I do finish the book, it will still hold true. My book isn’t going to have everything about La Farge in it, so I’ll leave it to others to fill in those missing pieces. The “unfinished” doesn’t mean that I’ll do another book about La Farge later, but others might want to.
Another positive aspect to my project is that I have half of the book written. I have written an introduction that explains who I am, why I’m writing the history, how the information is organized and what I’m including in the book. (The organization of the book was a real hang-up for me, but once I settled on a format to use, the writing has come easier.) I have written a prelude that sets dramatic anticipation for the rest of the action, something my old college roommate, Joe Porter, tipped me off to a while back. Chapters 1, 2,3, and 4 are about done, totaling nearly ninety pages of written material. A “Chapter Notes” section at the end is being compiled as I write, so much of that is done.
Now for some bad news, you were waiting for that, weren’t you?
There are three chapters left to complete, which include the conclusion. Each of those chapters is going to cover some major topics like floods and dam projects. I might have another ninety pages to write. There will be lots of photographs to accompany the manuscript. How those will be assembled is still being debated between my chief editor/publisher/history-buddy, Chuck Hatfield and me. At the end of the book I will include a number of the Local History Notebook columns that I feel will help tell the story about the village. There could be nearly eighty of those, so selecting which ones to use and reformatting those will be a chore as well. The last three chapters, the photographs, and the notebook columns will all take time.
I intended to have the book completed and ready to be released by this 4th of July. That isn’t going to happen; I’m not going to have enough time to get it completed in three and a half months (although I may come close). Instead, I now want to get it done so that it can be released for the next Small Town Christmas here in La Farge. That will be the first Saturday in December. You can hold me to that date, I think.
In the mean time, I want to show the photographs that have been complied on La Farge’s history at this year’s 4th of July weekend. This photo show on La Farge’s history will be in the school gymnasium on July 3, which is the All-School Reunion day and on the 4th. Brian Turner, another history-buddy, will help with the show and he is a veteran at these sorts of photo displays, so it should be fun to walk through. Some of the students at La Farge High School will also help.
Speaking of La Farge students working on history projects, check out the new “La Farge History Project” just completed by Amy Lund’s LHS Local History Class. It is on the school’s website at www.lafarge.k12.wi.us. Click on La Farge History Project and there you will find the student’s work. There are oral history interviews, lots of photographs of La Farge – past and present, and several short histories on various topics. Some of the student work on this project is nicely done. Check it out; you might enjoy it.
So that’s where I am on this little project on telling La Farge’s story. Keep the information, photographs, and remembrances coming to me at Box 202, La Farge 54639 or firstname.lastname@example.org. I really appreciate hearing from everybody. Working together we will get the story of this little river town told.